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Saugus seniors have grad night choices

Posted: May 19, 2008 2:02 a.m.
Updated: July 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Graduating high school seniors often have a full plate as May turns to June and the countdown of their days in grade school nears single digits.

Along with prom and the senior banquet, Grad Night has become the cornerstone of this final month.

This year, Saugus High School seniors will have to make a decision on how to spend that precious night of high school revelry.

Breaking from a five-year tradition of holding the Senior Grad Night at Disneyland, Associated Student Body director Wendy Szot, in conjunction with Saugus administration and student officers of the senior class, decided early in the first semester to select a new time and location for the post graduation event.

They decided that the 2008 Grad Night would be held the week before graduation at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

"After the Grad Night at Disneyland, (ASB) received requirements from administration for the 2008 Grad Night. It had to be held before graduation and it couldn't be on a school night," Szot said. "That ruled out Disneyland because they only offer Grad Night on Thursdays." A March 11 e-mail sent by Assistant Principal Martha Spansel to school faculty confirmed Szot's statement and dispelled rumors that Saugus High had been prohibited from attending the Disneyland Grad Night by the Disneyland organization.

Although a handful of students were arrested by Disneyland police at last year's Grad Night, Spansel's e-mail stated that Saugus had not been kicked out of the Disneyland Grad Night, but that they had voluntarily chosen not to return this year.

As for how the rumors of Saugus' dismissal from Disneyland were started, Spansel believes that rumors circulated by students fueled the false story.

"In my opinion, (the rumor of Saugus being dismissed from Grad Night in the future) was circulated by students. Also, (administrators) believed that Disneyland did not want us back because student behavior was so bad," Spansel said. "We were never officially kicked out though."

In an April interview with Saugus High School's student paper, The Scroll, Spansel and Szot both pointed to severe overcrowding at Disneyland Grad Nights of the past - with reported figures of 75,000-100,000 students at any given Grad Night - and the criteria set down by administration as the reasons for the voluntary departure from Disneyland this year.

"After the request by administration, (ASB officials) decided to take ASB seniors around to several locations. Roosevelt Hotel's nightlife held a lot of attraction because it would be an easy sell to the student body," Szot said. "It's a Hollywood hotspot."

However, the break from the time-honored Disneyland Grad Night had repercussions beyond that of a simple venue change. For some Saugus seniors, the Roosevelt Hotel Grad Night sounds too much like a second prom to be worth paying for.

"I'm already paying a bunch of money to go to prom. I don't feel like shelling out a bunch of money to go to something that will be just like it," said Saugus senior Jake Gallegos.

"I'd rather hang out with my closest friends as a last hurrah than talk to random people from Valencia (at the Roosevelt Hotel Grad Night)," added fellow senior Todd Lewis.

For one senior in particular, complaining and boycotting the organized Grad Night was not an appealing choice. When Samantha Turner first heard that Grad Night would be held at the Roosevelt Hotel, she took action.

With the help of her mother, Debbie Turner, Samantha organized a second Grad Night at Disneyland and distributed flyers to members of the senior class advertising the private event. An $85 ticket goes towards covering the $50 fee to Disneyland and covering expenses for chartered buses to and from the event.

According to Szot, a signed contract is needed for any school or party like Turner's attending the Disneyland Grad Night. The potential that Saugus High would be associated in any way on the contract prompted immediate reaction from school officials.

Turner's early marketing strategies, which included flyers advertising the Disneyland trip as an alternative Saugus Grad Night, added to the administration's concerns.

"As administrators, we were worried that parents would think this is a school-sanctioned event," Spansel said. "We contacted Disneyland and told them that Saugus is not sending a group to Disneyland this year.

Turner needs a signed contract to make it a done deal and we don't want to assume any liability."

Since the initial uproar at news of her plans, Turner has acquired the needed contract and has eliminated Saugus High School from the equation.

"It was not an issue," she said. "We were put down as a private party with my mother as the chairperson. We have several adult chaperones and Saugus is not a part of it at all."

In defense against accusations that ASB officials were quick to discredit the Disneyland trip because they were concerned that profit would be lost, Szot said: "There is no profit made on Grad Night. The bottom line is, we don't want students getting arrested or hurt and then the school getting held responsible. If Ms. Turner could acquire a contract that doesn't have Saugus anywhere on it and arrange for the buses to pick up and drop off students from an off-campus location, then all the more power to her."

Spansel added that not only Saugus, but four other local high schools are passing on Disneyland for Grad Night this year for various reasons.

With the Roosevelt Hotel Grad Night slated for May 30 and the Disneyland trip scheduled for May 29, Saugus seniors will be hard-pressed to choose which event to attend.


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